Should the LDS church “raise the bar” to exclude liberals and NOMs?

We got an interesting comment from Remeny the other day regarding the ‘Naclers (including us) who have criticized President Beck’s talk:

The church has raised the bar for missionaries to serve. Since then the number of missionaries have decreased, but the quality of missionary has increased. So it should be with current members of the church. We should raise our own bars and live better than we have been. The church might lose a few members, but the quality of member will be better.

This touches on some questions the Bloggernacle is constantly wrestling with: How much dissent is helpful and constructive? Should a line be drawn? If so, where and how?

I think there are as many opinions on this as there are Bloggernaclers. On the one hand, the liberals and NOMs say they should be welcomed at church because if the church won’t grant a little bit of lee-way regarding belief and practice, more people will just leave the church entirely (perhaps becoming ** shudder ** atheists). Remeny replies “good riddance” (I’m paraphrasing). My alternate response to the NOMs would be that they should give the Sunstone-types more credit — my experience with them shows they’re pretty tenacious and not so easily discouraged. And besides, why is atheism the worst possible outcome? Everybody knows atheists are cute and cuddly and fun at parties. But I digress.

It seems clear that many members are influenced by all of the liberal ideas floating around the Internet. Apparently before encountering the Bloggernacle Seth R. was a Bible literalist, and now he’s worried about becoming “one of those snivelly goatee-sporting, postmodernist Mormons wearing a beret, and weeping into my cappuccino about correlation.” ๐Ÿ˜‰ Could it happen to you???

My own trajectory is even more embarrassing. Before encountering cultural-Mormon-blog-and-forum-space a few years ago, Mormonism was the last thing that would ever cross my mind. I had no idea who the current president of the church was, and if you’d asked me to name a General Authority, I couldn’t have named a single one, not even Hinkley. Now I’ve gotten to the point where I’m writing articles commenting on talks at General Conference. People have joked that the next step is that I’ll be rebaptized. (Of course I was never ex’ed to begin with, but if I showed an interest in coming back to church, they might remedy that.) Then I could join all of the cool postmodernist Mormons for cappuccino! (I already have a beret!)

Anyway, to get to the point (and/or discussion topic), I don’t think the LDS church could get rid of the so-called intellectuals even if it wants to. Openly rebuking them from the pulpit discourages some but apparently encourages others. Plus it’s not clear that it’s in the church’s interest to get rid of them entirely: maybe they’re helping some to stay in the church despite doubts, maybe they just keep the discussion more lively.

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chanson

C. L. Hanson is the friendly American ExMormon atheist mom living in Switzerland! See "letters from a broad" and the novel ExMormon for further adventures!!

35 thoughts on “Should the LDS church “raise the bar” to exclude liberals and NOMs?

  1. Well, I have mixed feelings about this.

    As a private organization, LDS Inc has the right to include or exclude anyone.

    On the other hand, as a Christian religion that is tax-exempt – it doesn’t seem very “Christ-like” to exclude anyone. I can think of more than a few New Testament stories where Christ taught tolerance and forgiveness, as opposed to the pharisees’ exclusion.

    I think it would be hypocritical to claim to be a Christian religion and exclude so many.

    As far as the question of dissent, I think that is a difficult topic that many organizations, religions and countries struggle with. I think dissent can strengthen an organization and also encourage diversity within that organization. I think it’s only when violence is encouraged or hate speech starts that dissent is harmful.

  2. Aerin — I agree that in general dissent is helpful for an organization. It encourages critical thinking when ideas can battle it out and let the best ideas win. On the other hand, LDS Inc. is very intent on maintaining a rigid top-down hierarchy. If the ‘Nacclers are able to come up with valid criticisms of conference talks (in real time!) — yet are utlimately faithful members who care about their (LDS) faith, then that whole “when the prophet speaks the thinking has been done” thing starts to look fishy….

  3. Lets raise the bar for members. Lets raise the bar before baptism. Imagine how much easier life would be in the mission field wards and branches if American mission presidents and their Elders could no longer target refugee and psychiatric asylums to push numbers.

    The local members would be ecstatic if American tourists would no longer be able to pressure vulnerable people to join the church.

    Lets raise the bar on mission presidents who are obsessed with numbers and care naught for the souls of “converts.” Let us demand that mission presidents sanctify baptism and confirmation instead of trivializing the sacraments with sales tactics and number games.

    Lets raise the bar in the MTC by abandoning manipulative sales tactics and providing a gospel based curriculum that respects the value of every soul and emphasizes freedom of conscience.

    Lets raise the bar with effective quality control. Bishops ought to conduct the baptismal interviews. District leaders are part of the number games and therefore have a vested interest in baptizing as many people as possible. As tourists, neither missionaries nor mission presidents bear the consequences for low quality baptisms. Bishops, on the other hand, are responsible for huge lists of “members” who were never converted except for the sales tactics of missionaries. Lets raise the bar on conversion.

    Lets raise the bar on correlation. Local members understand their circumstances better than folks in Salt Lake. Instead of micromanaging the church globally, lets teach correct principles and let the members govern themselves.

    Lets raise the bar and hold our leaders accountable for the Church’s atrophy in Europe and Latin America. Lets ask our leaders, why can’t you report baptismal statistics that actually add up?

    Lets raise the bar and ask our leaders, why can’t you tell us what you are doing with the money of the Lord? What do you have to hide?

    Lets raise the bar and the church will prosper. Pay, pray and obey and Mormonism will languish.

    Remeni is exactly right. The problem with Mormonism is the lack of quality. In the army, we learned that the fish begins to stink at the head. Any improvement in the quality of the Mormon experience has to begin in Salt Lake. Lets raise that bar!

  4. I think raising the bar makes sense when you are talking about certain “elites” (to use a snotty term) within the organization, such as missionaries, or bishops. One of the missionaries who preceded me in my first assignment as a missionary in Japan proposed to the entire YSA population in the branch and single-handedly ruined the organization in that town. Am I sorry if “raising the bar” excludes people like him?

    Not really.

    But the LDS community of Christ is different. We’re supposed to be welcoming those who are seeking God, whatever their level of spiritual development.

    [insert obligatory quote about the Church being a hospital for the spiritually sick and afflicted and a standard reference to Christ dining with sinners]

    So, neat idea from Remeny, but I totally disagree with it.

  5. By the way. Missionaries aren’t really tourists. I knew a lot of missionaries in the field. I met a lot of tourists. There’s a night-and-day difference. And the locals knew it.

  6. “…but the quality of member(s) will be better (by excluding NOMs & liberals).”

    just exactly How’s THAT going to happen???

  7. Well, I disagree with his opening premise that the “raising the bar” business has a)decreased the number of missionaries, but b)improved their “quality” (whatever that may mean).

    It is arguable that missionary numbers are declining for demographic reasons as much as anything. And the assertion that “raising the bar” (which is, like most things in the church, wildly variable from ward to ward and stake to stake, depending on local leadership interpretations) has “worked” — whatever THAT means — is just completely unproveable.

    And I love it how attrition in the membership is shrugged off (an attitude that also comes from “the head.) As Jesus said: It’s my way or the highway. So shut your piehole.

  8. Well, I think I’m going to take issue with Remeny’s original statement: How do we know the “quality” of missionaries has gone up? It’s not like the LDS religion has released any verifiable data indicating as much. In fact, I’m still convinced that the “raising the bar” claim is just a cover-up for the drop in missionaries that occurred due to people leaving the religion.

    To continue this line of argument, how, Hellmut, can you verify that things are improving in the religion if the religion doesn’t release actual information on how things are improving? Just because Hinckley or another member of the quorum of old white guys (QOWG) says the missionaries are getting better or recent converts are better members doesn’t mean it is so. Again, even if Hinckley or someone from the QOWG said members were “better converts” I’d interpret that to mean, “We have fewer converts, so we’re going to say we are improving our proselytizing techniques to screen out “bad converts” but, in fact, that is just a cover for reduced numbers of converts for reasons beyond our control.”

    Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I’m just not buying it. The numbers and my cynicism tell a story entirely different from that presented by the QOWG. The way I see it, Mormonism is no longer growing – but the QOWG is turning that into “becoming more focused on “good members””.

  9. Seth R. — That’s a good point that raising the bar for a particular task or position is not the same as raising the bar for being accepted into the community.

    GNPE — Are you saying the NOMs and liberals are actually the good members? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    belaja and exmoron — I’m tempted to take this more cynicial interpretation as well: claiming quality has gone up may just be a cover for why quantity has gone down…

  10. To echo what Hellmut and exmoron are saying, let me note that if the church wants to raise the bar, they should start with the most obvious filter. Let’s raise the bar just 2 inches and stop considering a person to be a member if they have not stepped foot in a church for the last year. Let’s raise the bar and assume that children of members are not also members until they are baptised. Sure, the church would lose a few million members, but those people don’t really count, do they?

  11. I was at an open house for Sonia Johnson in the Stake where Sonia Johnson lived before she was excommunicated. A member of the Stake High council came, he cited procedural errors inthe trial.

    Her Home teachers came. Her best friend was now the head of Mormons against the ERA and fell into a long bear hug–Mormons have faced many changes and challenges with loving-kindness and understanding. But Mormons tend to all go
    together when they go. It happened when David O. McKay died, and when Benson became
    prophet.

    I never liked Ezra Taft Benson’s mingling
    of politics and religion, long before he was prophet. This topic comes in his wake.

    If they do kick us out, can I still be on your website?

  12. Nom de Cypher — There’s a certain logic to that…

    KMW — Considering that our blog is a bunch of apostates trying to spark a civil dialog with TBMs and NOMs, it’d be pretty wacky of us to kick you out. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    The only people banned from posting here are the spammers (and we get, like, fifty random spams a day, it’s crazy…)

  13. Of course, you are right, Seth, that missionaries are not tourists.

    The point that I am trying to make is that mission presidents and missionaries are not accountable for the long term consequences of their behavior. They are in and out. The members are remaining behind and have to live with the consequences of mission presidents’ actions whose heart has always been firmly in Salt Lake City.

    Every year, thousands of people get baptized that are not converted. That bolsters the image of the mission president with the COB but it hurts the local church. It also reaffirms the self-image of the Utah Church at the expense of Mormons in the mission field.

    Thus it is a situation where Mormons exploit other Mormons, to say nothing of the “converts” who, in some cases, have literally been snatched from the steps of refugee and insane asylums.

    After validating their corridor identities by baptizing vulnerable “converts,” mission presidents and missionaries go home and let the members deal with the negative consequences ranging from bloated home teaching schedules to suicides.

    If you think about it, I am sure that you will appreciate how much damage that does to the image of the church in the missionaries’ host countries.

  14. Kathleen asks: “If they do kick us out, can I still be on your website?”

    Of course, Kathleen. You will always be welcome here. While I cannot speak for others, most ‘naclers would love to enjoy your company as well.

  15. belaja and exmoron รขโ‚ฌโ€ Iรขโ‚ฌโ„ขm tempted to take this more cynicial interpretation as well: claiming quality has gone up may just be a cover for why quantity has gone downรขโ‚ฌยฆ

    But I don’t feel cynical! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Really, I don’t–I just don’t buy the completely unsupported assertion that has been thrown out there as if it were fact: The “raising of the bar” (completely undefined and unquantified) has resulted in fewer but better missionaries and fewer but better converts.

    There’s not necessarily a causal connection between ANY of this. At least not one that Remeny has supported with ANY sort of evidence–not even anecdotal. It’s like he’s just saying, “that’s what they said would happen and so that’s what happened. Because they said it would.”

  16. belaja — you want assertions to be backed by some sort of evidence rather than just being theoretically possible? Jeez, you sound like one of those cuddly atheists or something… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    GNPE — Do you want us to delete the first version of each repeated comment?

  17. ‘Problem with MOmism is’ (insertyour fav)…
    Some things that aren’t Measurable are treated as though they are… Some things that are, are treated as though (get it?)

    Like the caller who called the Car Guys (‘I have tm’d ‘guy’ & ‘guys’ and ‘guy’s’) to ask if turning on the radio would decrease fuel mileage…

  18. Why is it raising the bar to exclude liberals? Why not raise the bar to exclude the wannabe fundamentalists, the survivalists, the conspiracy theory freaks, and conservatives?

    If we presume to seek a Christ like society, increasing tolerance and decreasing judgmentalism and self righteousness would seem to be the orders of the day.

  19. GNPE — I think I get it — your objection is one of logistics. I was wondering about this myself: how would “raising the bar” on ordinary members even be accomplished? Disfellowship everyone whose beliefs aren’t sufficiently orthodox?

    Greg — the problem with your first paragraph is clear from your second paragraph: the liberals are the ones who want to increase tolerance, etc., hence are unlikely to be the ones doing the excluding… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  20. Quote:
    GNPE รขโ‚ฌโ€ I think I get it รขโ‚ฌโ€ your objection is one of logistics.
    Comment:
    and therefore Impractical.
    Doesn’t even get out the door.

  21. Raising the Bar. Seems to me that in Utah, at least, the Rules of the charch are relative. The guys at the top may speak in absolutes, even the Bishop in his sacrament meeting intro speach may say “lets meet those home teaching goals.” To many rank and file members the rules relative. They follow the Mormonism that their parents taught’em.
    So, raise the bar, make the rules tougher. Some members will scramble like Haitian refugees to the shores of non-mormonism Others will just ignore the new standards and keep doing what they do.

  22. amen Greg and Wayne!!

    ‘one of my pet peeves;’ Mormonism doesn’t seem to prioritize things (exception: Sins)- the concepts -values of Christian Living much (at all?). (To me) the Chief of those is LOVE, as exampled by Honesty, Kindness, Charity, Forgiveness & Repentance. the LDS practice is to throw everything into a Blender, and pour it out all mixed, according to Correlation. Correlation took one of the most important features of MoMism out of the equation: Spontaniety…

  23. I fail to get all excited about this hype of “raising the bar.” The decrease in the number of missionaries serving, in my opinion, has nothing to do with policy shifts. There was a foreseen drop in number of available young men that would be turning 19. “Raising the bar” is a good PR/marketing way to help explain why the number of full-time missionaries dropped.

  24. bp — Well, at least they were prophetic enough to realize the number would drop and that they’d need an explanation for it… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  25. On the other hand, Bob McCue reported a while back that a group of young men hangs out at his place after being rejected for missionary service.

    There have also been a couple of Ballard speeches chastising local leaders for raising the bar too high.

    bp is right, of course, the biggest reason for less missionaries is the end of the baby boom bump.

  26. Yeah, even if it is partially motivated by explaining the demographics, they probably really are rejecting people. It’s possible that young people who have been sexually active are being excluded more systematically as they are more likely to be sent home in scandal.

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